Journal article

Neutral drift and polymorphism in gene-for-gene systems

Pathogens are a main driving force of the evolution of plants and animals. Being resistant to diseases confers a high selective advantage to hosts, yet many host–pathogen systems show a remarkable degree of polymorphism of host resistance and pathogen virulence. The most common explanation of this phenomenon is that both resistance and virulence genes are costly and that there is selection against those genes when they are unnecessary. Here, we use stochastic multi-locus simulations to show that the origin and the maintenance of genetic polymorphism in plant–pathogen systems can be explained without costs. In multi-locus gene-for-gene systems, temporal domination of a super pathogen can cause polymorphism in resistance through neutral drift. With an increasing number of susceptible alleles in the host population, pathogen types other than the super race are able to cause infections and invade the population, leading to higher pathogen diversity and in turn to higher host diversity


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